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So You Tested Positive for HIV – NOW WHAT???

Actress and model Melyssa Ford will be serving up a four-part series on the state and importance of black sexual health, delving into the topics AIDS/HIV. Be informed, be safe and protect your worth.

Several days before I was scheduled to make an appearance and publicly speak on behalf of my non-profit organizations’ partner, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I had a very vivid dream. I dreamt that I tested positive for HIV, and I immediately thought about taking my own life. I believed that my life, as I knew it, was over and not worth living anymore. Having been diagnosed with the virus, which would ultimately lead to the disease that would cause my death, coupled with ostracism from my friends and community, why go on?

The thoughts racing through my head were traveling at the speed of light. Where did I contract the virus? From whom did I contract it? WHEN? I began to think of the conversation I was going to have to have with former partners, not knowing when the virus was contracted and considering it can lay dormant for a significant period of time. Jesus, strike me down now!

And then a voice inside my head said to me, “Now you know just how full of crap you are and have been.” And I knew what it meant. I’d been preaching the word, the gospel, about HIV/AIDS Awareness, Prevention and Education for years. Sitting up on panels, encouraging folks to always know their status and to act responsibly and sitting up on my high horse knowing I had been afforded certain luxuries that allowed me to live a very responsible life. I didn’t have to sell my body in order to make money for baby formula. I didn’t live in poverty, and I didn’t live in an area with a statistically high rate of prevalence, increasing the chance of crossing paths with an infected sexual partner. And so, it seems, I could preach with a subtle sort of arrogance and apparently ignorance.

“So,” this voice said to me, “Let’s see just how full of it you are. Are you going to become a REAL advocate like Magic Johnson, Maria Davis and Marvelyn Brown, or are you going be a coward and go out like a sucker and end your life?” It’s at that point that I woke up. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wake up with an overwhelming sense of relief. It was just a dream, and my test results still said negative, but I was unsettled. I realized that if some young person followed my advice and got tested and tested positive, I would have no answers for them as to where to seek help and medical assistance. In that way, I was no real advocate, and I was STILL full of crap. So, I began to seek answers to the questions that needed asking--that no one ever wants to ask but so many of us should and will have to--if the statistics don’t change in the African American community.

Where can I get tested for HIV? And do the tests hurt?
The test involves a painless swab of the inside of your mouth. You have the choice of going for a confidential test at your doctor’s office or at a nearby clinic. Local health clinics usually advertise that they do free testing so it’s as easy as walking in and requesting it. If you wanted to get tested anonymously, you can get tested free of charge at a testing site offered by your states’ Health Department. You do not give a name; your test is processed by a number. If your test comes back positive, you can request professional counseling so you are made aware of all of your options in regards to health care and help with partner notification. Or you can look up free testing sites on HIVTest.org if your state health department doesn’t provide testing at their offices.

How often do I need to be tested for HIV?
Anytime you have shared needles during drug use or had unprotected sex, you should be getting tested for HIV. If you’ve had one or more STDs (Sexually Transmitted Virus) in the past, that increases your chances of contracting HIV through unprotected sex and drug use with needles. Keeping your sexual partners to a minimum and practicing safe sex is your best chance at staying healthy, where a once a year test is all that is needed.

Does testing negative for HIV mean I’m negative for all other STDs?
No it does not, and while on your next doctor’s visit, in addition to requesting your HIV test, request a test for all STDs. Our doctor’s are testing for certain things, like abnormal and possibly cancerous cells, during our PAPs and physicals. We need to verbally REQUEST all other testing for things such as Syphilis, Gonorrhea and HPV Human Papilloma Virus).

If I only give and receive oral sex, am I still at risk of contracting and passing along the HIV virus?
The risk exists but is extremely hard to determine. It’s advised to partake in this type of sexual activity only with partners you have a trusting and perhaps monogamous relationship with.

I tested Positive for HIV; what do I do now?
If you test positive for the HIV virus, prompt medical attention and consultation is an absolute necessity. Early medical treatment and a healthy lifestyle can delay the onset of AIDS, which is the disease. To determine when is the best time to start HIV medications your doctor will take 2 tests: one is a viral load test which determines how much HIV is in your blood stream; the other is a T-cell test, also known as a CD4 count, which determines how strong your immune system is. There are cases of people living with the HIV virus for up to 10 years without a single symptom, but that isn’t for you to determine on your own.

Your doctor will want to test you for Tuberculosis and other STD’s as they can cause serious health problems for you.


I have no health insurance and I have limited finances; how do I pay for treatment?
There are programs that assist those that fall below a certain income levels. The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) offers federal assistance, but a number of different local groups in each city also offer assistance. Www.Health.gov is a website that can help you locate local groups that offer assistance in your city.

HIV/AIDS is a serious but chronic manageable disease.  People who get treatment tend to live relatively normal lives, generally longer than the 1/3 of Americans with serious cardiovascular disease or diabetes.  It is far more treatable than most cancers, specifically breast and cervical cancer, which kills at a significantly higher rate than HIV.  However it is quite serious and has a real impact on those who live with it, and will eventually kill most people who are infected and get no doctor's attention or treatment. But most people in this country live many decades after becoming infected. According to Robert Bailey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Person’s infected with HIV who begin treatment early are 96% less likely to transmit the virus to their sexual partners, and more likely to live very long lives because early treatment lowers the amount of HIV in the body. What’s unfortunate is that, of the 1.2 million American’s living with HIV, only 28% are receiving regular care, taking the necessary medicine and have viral suppression, and that needs to change.”

We need to stop thinking and talking about HIV/AIDS as if it is still 1981, and start to develop the same kind of supportive environment for those who are HIV positive as we do for victims of cancer or heart disease.  A lot has changed in terms of medical advancement for HIV care over the last 30 years – however, the level of public ignorance about it remains quite stagnant and the disproportionate contraction rates in our community in comparison to other nationalities only supports this fact; as the saying goes “What hurts just one hurts us all”.

To get the facts about HIV/AIDS visit www.actagainstaids.org.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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